Tag Archives: High-Speed Rail

All Your Facts Are Belong to Us

Railway ministry spokesman Wang Yongping. "Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it."

In China, news has a habit of disappearing; from state media, traditional media, personal blogs, microblogs, and Internet forums alike. After an important incident, citizens have roughly a day to opine before the government apparatus catches up. It is then that directives are issued to media outlets, outlining what can and cannot be reported; it is then that posts you swore you wrote vanish; it is then that new “sensitive keywords” are entered into a blackout database.

But this sort of state-induced amnesia doesn’t mean the incidents are forgotten or disappear from public consciousness. For the discerning public, these events are preserved in other ways. Usually it’s though whispered anecdotes that blend fact and rumor. Sometimes it’s through a kind of numeric shorthand: May 4 (5.4), June 4 (6.4), and, more recently, May 12 (5.12, referring to the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake). But with the spread of Internet and cell phone connectivity comes another form of public remembrance which we will focus on here: the catchphrase turned Internet meme.

Last week, railway ministry spokesman Wang Yongping became the most quoted person in China after a press conference on the evening of July 24, just one day after the Wenzhou train collision, in which he uttered two phrases that might be repeated for years to come.

“This is a miracle.”

Here’s the setup. After authorities had claimed that there were no more survivors on the derailed train cars, they began to push them around with cranes in preparation to bury them, causing rumors to fly that there were still survivors and that the government was intent on literally burying the evidence.

That assertion, turns out, is at least partly true. 21 hours after the collision, rescue workers found two-year-old Xiang Weiyi (nicknamed Yiyi) alive inside one of the cars. This turn of events led to a widespread conviction that the government had not taken the rescue effort seriously.

At the Ministry of Railways press conference, Wang was in the unenviable position of having to account for why someone would be found alive when the government had declared everyone dead and had begun to tear the train cars apart. But it’s okay, this guy is a professional. Just say you’re sorry, you messed up, stand up and bow, offer condolences, throw in some empty platitudes if you have the time, and you’ll be home in time for dinner. No sweat.



Reporter: Why would a girl be found alive while disassembling the train cars, when rescue attempts were already finished?

Wang: This is a miracle. You ask why—

Reporter: This is not a miracle!

[Many reporters angrily yelling at once.]

Reporter: What I want to ask is this: Why, after you had already announced that there were no survivors, when you had already begun to disassemble to the train? Why would there still be a survior?

Wang: I am answering you. This happened. We truly did find a girl who was alive. This is the way things are.

Two-year-old Xiang Weiyi recovering from her injuries.

Now, I don’t want to be too hard on Wang. After all he is just a government lackey, but ARE YOU SERIOUS? A miracle? Someone call the pope, I think a sainthood is in order! Is it also a miracle that this girl has symptoms of PTSD? Or is that just what happens when you leave a two-year-old to die in a train car?

Unsurprisingly, this quote spread across the Chinese Internet and added fuel to the argument that the Chinese government, to paraphrase Kanye West, doesn’t care about Chinese people. Certainly, the insouciance with which Wang answers the question is disturbing. The lack of depth and self-reflection in his response belies a disregard for the girl’s life, which could easily be generalized to the Party itself.

In the end, I think I understand what Wang is trying to say. For a toddler to survive the train crash in which her parents died is nothing short of Potter-esque; for a defenseless child to survive the full force of the Chinese government’s ineptitude and negligence, is nothing short of miraculous. But if little Yiyi is Harry Potter, then what does that make the government?

“Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.”

At another point in the press conference, a reporter asked why the government had attempted to bury parts of the train. Wang’s response was:

Why was the train car buried? Actually, when I got off the plane today, the comrade who picked me up from the airport said that he already saw this kind of news online. I was on the plane so I didn’t have a good handle on things. I wanted to ask him, “Why would there be such a foolish question? Can an event that the whole world knows about really be buried?” He told me, “It’s not being buried. Truthfully, this news cannot be buried.” We have already tried though countless ways to broadcast this information to society.

But about burying [the train car], [the people who picked me up from the airport] gave this explanation. Because the scene of the rescue was very complicated. Below was a quagmire. It was very hard to perform rescue operations. So they buried the head of the car underneath, covered it with dirt, mainly to facilitate rescue efforts. Right now, this is his explanation. Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.

Wang delivers the last line with a satisfied nod of the head and a swing of his right hand (animated GIF here), as if to emphasize the important thing is that he has deluded himself. Whether or not the Chinese people can delude themselves is their problem. An utter lack of curiosity or a desire to know the truth permeates his response. There is no indignation, no second-guessing, no doubt—just gleeful ignorance.

Never mind the lack of logic: It’s hard to perform rescue operations on unstable ground so fuck it, let’s just bury everyone alive. Then, on the backs of the deceased, we can try and rescue some people. Perhaps this is why some netizens have taken to calling Mr. Wang, “Emperor Logic.”

Add to the fact that the Chinese government, like every government, is very successful at burying events that the whole world knows about. One might even say they excel at it. This press conference gives us a rare glimpse into why the Chinese government works so well: they’ve stacked their ranks with people who have cheerfully drunk the Kool-Aid. I had hoped that officials in the government didn’t believe their own bullshit but Wang here wallows in it. You’ve gotta give him points for gullibility.

The Social Consciousness

Jokes incorporating Wang’s responses quickly surfaced. A comment on the latter video reads, “Wang Yongping is impotent. Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.”

A longer joke imagines a retelling of Journey to the West:

Tangzeng and his followers have to go back to West Heaven and Tangzeng wants to take a shortcut so he asks Wukong’s advice. Wukong says, “I hear planes are much faster than your white horse.” Bajie advises, “Master, I hear the Shenzhou 6 is even faster.” Then, Shazeng pulls out four tickets for a high-speed train and says to Tangzeng: “Master, I hear this thing can send you straight to West Heaven. Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.”

Aside from finding humor in an otherwise depressing situation, memes like this are important because they embed the event in the social consciousness, preserving knowledge about the event for a longer period of time. After all, a government’s greatest ally is the forgetfulness of the general public.

These cultural memes show that although the government is monitoring the Internet more and more carefully—blocking websites, deleting posts and reposts—they cannot stop their infamies from seeping into the culture itself. Perhaps the only way citizens can remind themselves of the tragedies that are whitewashed, rewritten, or otherwise brushed aside, is to make them a part of the underground lexicon.

Shortly after the accident, a user on Tencent’s microblogging service started a “High-speed Rail Style Sentence Making Competition,” which challenged users to make sentences using Wang’s, “Regarding ___, whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.” Though I cannot locate the thread (it may have been harmonized), the competition had over 7,000 replies by the evening of the 27th.

Some entries were preserved on other parts of the web:

The Chinese Soccer Association said: “The Chinese soccer team will qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.”

There is no traffic in Beijing today. This is a miracle, but that is how it happened. Whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.

“River crab,” Baidu’s 10 Mythical Creatures, “harmonize,” are all part of the underground lexicon that undermine the government’s official line. Wang follows in a long line of people who were unfortunate enough to coin a phrase that perfectly embodies the iniquities of their society. Former champions include Ted Stevens with his conception of the Internet as “a series of tubes” and Li Qiming who notoriously announced to the world, “My dad is Li Gang.”

The Li Gang case is especially salient because the catchphrase ensured the enduring popularity of the incident and kept it in the public consciousness until, finally, the government was forced to act. (That case also spawned a writing competition in which netizens were tasked to rewrite classical poems by incorporating the phrase, “My dad is Li Gang.”)

Although Wang’s memes have staying power—they are beautiful in their simplicity, as the best memes are—the issue they deal with is too sensitive and the Chinese government will not act on something that strikes at the heart of their legitimacy just because a few netizens are cracking jokes behind their back. But these seemingly innocuous jokes hurt the credibility of the Ministry of Railways if not the central government and could serve to pressure more officials to step down in the future.

It’s a long shot but whether or not you believe it; either way, I believe it.

“Nothing to My Name”, the Train Crash Version

Cui Jian’s song “Nothing to My Name” is perhaps the best-known Chinese rock song of all time. It might also be considered one of the first, given that it was released in 1986. It quickly grew popular, and was adopted by the students as an anthem of sorts during the Tiananmen protests in 1989. In fact, Cui Jian even performed the song live for the protesters.

In the wake of the train accident in Wenzhou, it seems netizens have turned back to this decades old song to vent. Uploaded to Tudou a few days ago, this video — which is currently being spread around Weibo — is a very well done version of that song, with new lyrics that address the Wenzhou crash. It’s a fairly impressive job; most of the lyrics use the same rhyming sounds as the original song.


As of this posting, the video has over 400,000 views. Update: The original video I linked has now been deleted (presumably by Tudou), however, the video has been re-uploaded this morning; see above. If that doesn’t work, try these links, as it has also spread to other sites: Sina, Sina. Those appear to be being deleted, so your best bet long term is just to watch it on Youtube:

If you want to search for it on Chinese sites, the easiest way is to search for the phrase 一无所有 动车版.


This is a pretty rough translation. There are subtitles in the video, so I haven’t bothered to retype all the Chinese here.

Opening monologue: Railway Ministry, don’t tell me the reason for this accident is rain and lightning. You’re standing in front of the cameras all sanctimonious and graceful, but behind it, how much disgraceful, stinking, bloody, undisguised corruption is there?

Singing begins:
The people are asking over and over,
How can the Railway officials be so ballsy,
Why did they stop the rescue operations,
after just a single day?

The passengers needed your help,
They didn’t need your excuses,
But you’re just evading [the questions],
Speaking without thinking.

Oh, you look like you’re putting on a show,
Do you really feel guilty?

The earth under our feet is trembling,
The tears on our faces are flowing,
What was that that fell [from the train car in the video]
And was captured by the camera ((A reference to the Youku video that showed an object falling from the car.))?

Why was the list of victims not published?
Why were you burying the engine car of the train?
Is it that in your eyes,
The lives of the people are more worthless than pigs or dogs?

Oh, how much is a life worth?
Is a few hundred thousand enough?

Spoken interlude: When they took the body, they found signs of life. This proves that at the beginning some people were still alive. Perhaps at that time, my wife and my family members were still alive. Why didn’t you come to rescue us? The bodies of my wife and my mother in law were still in the car when it was taken off the overpass; they weren’t trying to save our family members, we feel they were just trying to clear the tracks so trains could continue service. Because they said last night that the railway was operating normally again. The bodies weren’t [carefully] extracted from the wreckage, they were dug out with an excavator! In this project, even if they were already dead, you can’t just use a backhoe to handle them!

Singing returns
I’m telling you I’ve put up with it for a long time,
I’m telling you my final demand,
I’m tightening up my fists,
And setting out to find this scumbag,
My heart is trembling,
My blood is pumping,
What will you bring out to console me,
To console my deceased friends and family?

Oh, how much is a life worth?
Is a few hundred thousand enough?

Ending titles: “This video is in remembrance of the N victims who died in the 7/23 train crash. July 27, 2011.

Professor Calls for Special Investigation into Train Crash

On July 28, five days after the deadly high-speed train crash in Wenzhou, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visited the scene and gave a press conference. Responding to a question about investigations into the causes of the incident, Wen said:

After the incident, the State Council has immediately set up an accident investigation team. This team is independent, and it involves the departments of safety, supervision and the procuratorate. Through on-the-ground survey, sampling, scientific analysis and expert reasoning, the team will reach a solid conclusion that can stand the test of history.

But the credibility of such an investigation has been called into question. Earlier on July 26, He Weifang, law professor at Peking University and an activist for the reform of the Chinese judicial system, wrote three posts on Sina Weibo calling for the setting up of a special investigation committee according to Article 71 of the Chinese Constitution, which says:

The National People’s Congress and its Standing Committee may, when they deem it necessary, appoint committees of inquiry into specific questions and adopt relevant resolutions in the light of their reports. All organs of state, public organizations and citizens concerned are obliged to supply the necessary information to those committees of inquiry when they conduct investigations.

The three posts, translated below, have altogether attracted over 45,000 forwards and 10,000 comments. Netizens on Weibo are overwhelmingly in support of Professor He’s proposal, although they know that it has a slim chance of being adopted.

After the 2003 Sun Zhigang incident, I and four other legal experts called for the triggering of the special investigation procedures as stipulated in Article 71 of the Constitution. The suggestion fell on deaf ears. The Wenzhou accident sparked a public outcry, and investigation by the Railways Ministry would be unconvincing. The reliability of the high-speed rail system is now in doubt. I once again call for the opening of the special investigation committee in order to conduct hearings and give an answer to the public. (link)

The system of special investigation committee as stipulated in the Constitution has been in force for 30 years. But it has never been used. The article is therefore a “sleeping beauty”. The committee is a normal act of power by our highest authority, which has an obligation to do so. In February last year, the US Congress conducted a hearing on Toyota following its vehicle recalls. Our media called it “US Congress interrogating the safety of Toyota”. Who is to interrogate the safety of our railways? (link)

Article 21 of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee rules of procedures said: “The Standing Committee may, when they deem it necessary, appoint committees of inquiry into specific questions and adopt relevant resolutions in the light of their reports.” This means that such committees can still be appointed when the NPC is not in session. The motions can be raised by the State Council, other authorities, or ten or more members of the Standing Committee. (link)

Yesterday, Professor He also wrote a blog post (translated in full below) calling for the waking up of the “sleeping beauty”. An abridged version of the post also appears in the Southern Weekend.

After the serious incident on July 23, the nation is paying much attention to the causes, number of deaths, handling of the scene and issues of responsibilities. From media reports, it is clear that the State Council is playing a major role in the on-site investigation, while the Railways Ministry does the explanation to the public. Apparently, the media, including official ones, is dissatisfied with the answers given by the spokesperson in response to questions raised by the public. The Railways Ministry itself is the involved party bearing responsibilities, and the State Council, being the supervising authority, also has a conflict of interest. Furthermore, the investigation itself is non-transparent. We can expect the results to be unconvincing.

This is worrying. It is clear that the problem stems from the investigating bodies themselves and the defects in the procedures. On July 26, I wrote on Weibo that the investigation should be based on Article 71 of the Constitution, and the National People’s Congress Standing Committee should start a special investigation committee. According to relevant regulations, this committee should be composed of members from the legislature and outside experts. From overseas experience, the works of the committee could include investigations into the causes of the accident, identifying relevant personnel to testify in subpoena, holding debates between experts with different views, and reaching a conclusion.

To achieve some basic credibility, the hearings should be open to the public, and broadcasted live on television, except if it involves state secrets. This puts the truth in front of the public and is an important channel of public supervision. It also helps people, including those accountable, to accept the final conclusion of the committee.

Furthermore, the committee can conduct wider investigations. Using this incident as an example, apart from the above matters, the committee can investigate and assess the current state of development of the high-speed rail system, the hidden problems (such as quality of rails and bridges) and the management system. Only through this can the accident be turned into an opportunity to redress the defects of the system.

My suggestion has attracted widespread responses. Within the first ten hours or so, the first post has been forwarded over 20,000 times and attracted over 5,000 comments. However, many people worry that the NPC Standing Committee is not likely to trigger the special investigation procedures. After all, during the 30 years that the present Constitution has been in force, there is not even one precedent case. Article 71 can be described as a typical “sleeping beauty article”. In the 2003 Sun Zhigang incident, I, together with four other legal experts, called in vain for the triggering of this procedure. Can the tragedy in Wenzhou wake this “sleeping beauty” up?

Death on the High Speed Rail: Emerging Causes

UPDATE: Link to a blog post by Tom Lasseter added to the end of the post, high suggest you check it out.

Apologies for the lack of coverage yesterday; our VPN was out and we couldn’t access the blog.

In any event, new information is emerging today that sheds more light on what caused the horrific train crash in Wenzhou (See our coverage of Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3).

First is this Xinhua report, which says the crash was caused because the automatic notification system that should have told the D301 train there was a stopped train in front of it had been disabled by lightning:

Design flaws in railway signal equipment led to Saturday’s fatal high-speed train collision near Wenzhou in Zhejiang Province, the Shanghai Railway Bureau said on Thursday.

Having been struck by lightning, the signal system at Wenzhou South Railway Station failed to turn the green light to red, which caused the rear-end collision, said An Lusheng, head of the Shanghai Railway Bureau, at an investigation meeting held by the State Council in Wenzhou on Thursday.

The signal equipment was designed by a Beijing-based research and design institute and was put into use on Sept. 28, 2009, An said.

The accident revealed the railway sector’s vulnerabilities in safety infrastructure and management, An said.

More damning, perhaps, is this as-yet-unconfirmed expert testimony that the accident might have been averted if the Railway Ministry had chosen to install lighting safety equipment back in 2003:

He Jinliang, a professor at Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University and director of China’s National Lightning Protection Technology Standard Committee, said in an interview Wednesday that the Ministry of Railways decided in 2003, shortly before China began embarking on its drive to build an extensive high-speed rail network, against protecting the network’s power-distribution equipment for the trains with lightning rods and surge protection. The equipment in question: those tall poles that suspend power lines along the tracks, from which trains draw electricity for propulsion. That decision came even as Mr. He’s committee—a semiofficial standard-setting body—in the same year adopted standards that recommended installing those lightning-protection devices for big structures such as high-rise buildings and tall bridges.

Those safeguards “would not provide complete protection” against lightning, but they would reduce the likelihood that lightning would severely affect train operation, Mr. He said. “Strong lightning is dangerous as it could short-circuit the network’s power-distribution equipment and cause power outages that could paralyze signaling and safety systems.”

Mr. He said he doesn’t know why the country’s rail authorities decided to skimp on those safety devices. “But as far as I know, lighting rods or surge protectors are not installed on the high-speed rail network’s power-distribution pylons.” The lack of such safeguards, he said, could have played a role in Saturday’s accident.

Mr. He’s claim couldn’t immediately be verified. The Railways Ministry didn’t respond to requests to comment. Ministry spokesman Wang Yongping hasn’t spoken to reporters since holding a press conference on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the media appears to have been let off the leash, or perhaps just chosen to ignore it. Even state-managed CCTV has raised serious questions about government handling of the incident, as well as reflected on its broader implications. Perhaps most telling is this speech, from Qiu Qiming on “24 Hours” (translation via Shanghaiist):

“If nobody can be safe, do we still want this speed? Can we drink a glass of milk that’s safe? Can we stay in an apartment that will not fall? Can the roads we travel on in our cities not collapse? Can we travel in safe trains? And if and when a major accident does happen, can we not be in a hurry to bury the trains? Can we afford the people a basic sense of security? China, please slow down. If you’re too fast, you may leave the souls of your people behind.”

China’s Premier Wen Jiabao, who often serves as the man-on-the-ground for major disasters, is giving a press conference from Wenzhou today, despite apparently being sick:

“I am ill, having spent 11 days in bed, but I managed to come today only after my doctor reluctantly allowed me to check out of hospital. This is why I didn’t come here sooner.”

UPDATE: Well, I guess he wasn’t that sick. Check out this incredible blog post by Tom Lasseter that essentially proves, using only official Xinhua reports, that Wen was lying through his teeth about being stuck in bed for the past 11 days.

Han Han: “The Derailed Country”

The following is a guest translation by a Matt Schrader. It is supposedly an article that was posted to Han Han’s blog and then deleted. However, short of contacting him directly, which I have no way of doing, there’s no way to confirm that the article is in fact his. It’s also worth mentioning that articles are frequently passed off as being by Han Han as an attempt by other writers to draw more attention to the article in question.

On the other hand, articles are also frequently deleted from Han’s blog and when that happens, they quickly end up copied on other sites. Since in this case the original isn’t on Han’s blog, we’ll post the Chinese text in its entirety here. (There is no mouseover text below).

UPDATE: Based on information from a couple sources, I now believe it’s accurate to state that this is, in fact, an authentic Han Han piece.

Translation: “The Derailed Country”

You ask, why are they acting like a bunch of lunatics?

They think they’re the picture of restraint.

You ask, why can’t they tell black from white, fact from fiction?

They think they’re straight shooters, telling it like it is.

You ask, why are they running interference for murders?

They think they’ve thrown their friends under the bus. And they’re ashamed.

You ask, why all the cover-ups?

They think they’re letting it all hang out.

You ask, why are they so irretrievably corrupt?

They think they’re hardworking and plain-living.

You ask, why are they so infuriatingly arrogant?

They think they’re the picture of humility.

You feel like you’re the victim. So do they.

They think: “During the Qing Dynasty, no one had television. Now everyone has a television. Progress!”

They think: “We’re building you all this stuff, what do you care what happens in the process? Why should you care who it’s really for, so long as you get to use it? The train from Shanghai to Beijing used to take a whole day. Now you’re there in five hours (as long as there’s no lightning). Why aren’t you grateful? What’s with all the questions?

“Every now and then, there’s an accident. The top leaders all show how worried they are. We make someone available to answer journalists’ questions. First we say we’ll give the victims 170,000 kuai apiece. Then we say we’ll give them 500,000. We fire a buddy of ours. We’ve done all that, and you still want to nitpick? How could you all be so close-minded? You’re not thinking of the big picture! Why do you want us to apologize when we haven’t done anything wrong? It’s the price of development.

“Taking care of the bodies quickly is just the way we do things. The earlier we start signing things, the more we’ll have to pay out in the end. The later we sign, the smaller the damages. Our pals in the other departments—the ones who knock down all the houses—taught us that one. Burying the train car was a bonehead move, true, but the folks upstairs told us to do it. That’s how they think: if there’s something that could give you trouble, just bury it. Anyway, the real mistake was trying to dig such a huge hole in broad daylight. And not talking it over with the Propaganda Department beforehand. And not getting a handle on all the photographers at the site. We were busy, ok? If there’s anything we’ve learned from all this, it’s that when you need to bury something, make sure you think about how big it is, and make sure you keep the whole thing quiet. We underestimated all that.”

They think that, on the whole, it was a textbook rescue operation—well planned, promptly executed, and well managed. It’s a shame public opinion’s gotten a little out of hand, but they think, “That part’s not our responsibility. We don’t do public opinion.”

They’re thinking: “Look at the big picture: We had the Olympics, we canceled the agricultural tax, and you guys still won’t cut us a break. You’re always glomming on to these piddling little details. No can-do spirit. We could be more authoritarian than North Korea. We could make this place poorer than the Sudan. We could be more evil than the Khmer Rouge. Our army’s bigger than any of theirs, but we don’t do any of that. And not only are you not thankful, but you want us to apologize! As if we’ve done something wrong?”

Society has people of means, and those without. There’s people with power, and those that have none. And they all think they’re the victim. In a country where everyone’s the victim, where the classes have started to decouple from one another, where it’s every man for himself, in this huge country whose constituent parts slide forward on inertia alone—in this country, if there’s no further reform, even tiny decouplings make the derailings hard to put right.

The country’s not moving forward because a lot of them judge themselves as if Stalin and Mao were still alive. So they’ll always feel like the victim. They’ll always feel like they’re the enlightened ones, the impartial ones, the merciful ones, the humble ones, the put-upon ones. They think the technological drumbeat of historical progress is a dream of their own making.
The more you criticize him, the more he longs for autocracy. The more you gaomao him (piss him off), the more he misses Mao.

A friend in the state apparatus told me, “You’re all too greedy. Forty years ago, writers like you would’ve been shot. So you tell me, have things gotten better, or have they gotten worse?”

I said, “No, you’re all too greedy. Ninety years ago, that kind of thinking would have gotten you laughed out of the room. So you tell me: after all that, have things gotten better, or have they gotten worse?”

Death (and More) on the High Speed Rail, Day 3

UPDATE 3: Added paike footage of the toddler’s rescue to the end of the post.

UPDATE 2: Added “Donations” section with translated comments from a Tianya post.

UPDATE 1: Added information about the driver, media coverage, and a video from Shanghaiist, as well as information about a new Weibo poll.

If you haven’t, please read the first two posts on this subject to catch up to today.

This video, posted to Youku, is purportedly the first video of the crash itself. It begins with scenes of the rain, but at the end shows a train moving and then some very bright sparks, or…something. You be the judge:


Caixin released a report on the causes of the accident (emphasis added):

9:15 p.m.: Caixin has published a technical piece on the China Train Control System (CTCS), the train operation technology used by both trains involved in the crash. The system, wholly-controlled by an automated computer system, transmits information and monitors speed, taking into account inclement weather conditions like wind, rain and snow.

The report includes videos and explanations from the technology’s designers, and concludes that the accident was entirely preventable had the system been in full force. According to the system’s designs, the traffic control center should have detected the D3115’s slowdown and subsequent halting, and then notified any trains coming up from behind.

More details are available at that link.

The death toll continues to fluctuate, with some reports citing 39 dead, the netizen-crowdsourced list now listing 38 names, and Xinhua’s stories apparently edited to report 36 dead, down from 38 yesterday. But the Global Times puts the death toll at 40 today.

Also in edited news, with regards to the body-falling video on Youku mentioned yesterday, one commenter pointed out that the video has been edited. When originally posted, the video played smoothly, and there was clearly something falling from the train at around the 0:09 mark. Whether or not it was a body is debatable, but now the evidence of whatever it was appears to have been swept clean. Observe, the video now skips slightly at the 0:09 mark. The section where the falling object was visible has been deleted.


That video link was circulated widely on Youku, and was edited at some point yesterday afternoon. Compare it to this, a copy of the exact same video, circulated less widely and as yet unedited.


In case that is also edited, the video has also been copied to Youtube here, although it is a lower fidelity version and thus is a bit less clear.

Suspicion about the incident continues to be widespread. The newest user-created Weibo poll asks if people believe the government’s official casualty figures, and while it only has around 2,000 responses so far, 94% of respondents chose: “I absolutely don’t believe [the figures], if you use your brain to think about it, how could it be possible so few people died?”

Shanghaiist has also been following this story and providing excellent coverage. Two especially worthy pieces of theirs are this, which illustrates the media response to the accident, and this, the translation of a supposed conversation with the driver of the front train, who has not been heard from since the accident. The conversation, especially its ending, seem awfully convenient, and there’s no way to confirm its authenticity, but it’s worth a read anyway.

Meanwhile, other high-speed trains continue to experience power issues, as more problems caused another swath of delays on Monday.


An interesting question raised by this incident is how regular people can help. Upon hearing of the crash, many netizens wished to donate money. But the Chinese Red Cross, the place most people would generally donate money to in this sort of situation, is still tainted by the recent high-profile scandals and many no longer trust them to deliver donations.

Consider, for example, this Tianya thread about the crash in which the OP asks people to donate to the Chinese Red Cross (thanks to Jake F. for this link). Some responses:


You’re donating? I’m not going to get tricked again.

The OP is a master of satire.

Go to hell.

Donate money to Guo Meimei?

The Red Cross shouldn’t even be trying to get donations, they lost so much face and haven’t gained enough back yet.

I fuck your mom! Donate! Donate to the Black Cross Society, you might as well just throw your money away!

Who are you trying to fool?

Red Louse Society [a pun, “louse” is pronounced in a way similar to “cross”]

Donate your mom’s **** ((Yup, I’m not gonna translate that one.))

Go away.

Anyone who donates has no penis.

They found another excuse to dig out some money. Strongly disdain [in his post, this phrase is then copy-pasted around twenty more times].

The Red Cross represents the nation in begging for money.

This is a righteous slap to the face of the Black Society ((here, he means the Red Cross, not gangster/criminal society)).

Those are just a few quotes from the first half of the first page of the thread. At present, it goes on for another 44 pages, without much change in discussion. Right now, the most recent comment on the post is a joke about the original poster’s sister.

Rescue Footage

This video is gaining popularity on Youku right now. It shows the entire process of the young girl’s rescue on Sunday afternoon. It was posted about 15 hours ago and already has over 300,000 plays and 600 comments.


Death on the High Speed Rail, Day 2

UPDATE 5: Added the latest information on the death toll to the introduction.

UPDATE 4: Added Wang Yongpin’s rebuttal to the rumors that they were burying train cars to the “Official Media” section.

UPDATE 3: Added link and information about the Google Documents spreadsheet of victims.

UPDATE 2: Added a translation of some new propaganda directives to the new section “Information Control”

UPDATE 1: Added some information from Shanghaiist and a link from @InBeijingSe

Rather than continue to update yesterday’s post, which is already over 3,000 words long, we’ll be collecting new information about the Wenzhou accident here. If you haven’t already, we suggest you read that post before starting this one.

Xinhua announced this afternoon that the official death toll is now 38, rather than yesterday’s 35. The number of injured, most recently listed by Xinhua as 192, has not been updated.

Official Media

Official reports this morning acknowledge, in a rather indirect way, that China’s high speed rail “still faces challenges.” They are, however, emphatic about how the government remains confident in the trains. From Xinhua:

Despite the accident, the spokesman said the ministry is still confident in China’s high-speed trains.

“China’s high-speed train is advanced and qualified. We have confidence in it,” he said.

From the Global Times:

“China has advanced high-speed railway technology. We are still confident about that,” Wang said.

The government has additionally suspended 58 train services, up from yesterday’s number which was less than 30.

In a press conference today, railway official Wang Yongpin directly addresses the rumors that train cars were being buried at the accident site:


In the video, he says that according to a “comrade” of his, the car was buried because of the muddy ground, and that burying the car and then putting dirt on top of it aided recovery efforts. He says they would not and could not figuratively “bury” this story, so they wouldn’t try. He concludes, “That is how he [the unnamed “comrade”] explained this [the cars being buried]. As to whether you believe it or not…anyway, I believe it.”

The Global Times also ran an editorial on the crash:

China’s high-speed railway system has become the newest target of public criticism, although it reportedly stands on the cusp of joining the world’s best in the field. The society harshly criticizes the railway system whenever there is an accident. The authorities’ only option is to accept such criticism.

The collision delivered a strong shock to China’s social psychology, and caused doubt toward the nation’s railway construction plans. For a long time, China has been lagging behind in transportation. Now China is rising to the top level for railways.

However, the nation lacks experience when joining these ranks, and when an accident does happen, society naturally holds many misgivings.

Railway departments have to face up to public inquiries and doubts frankly and bravely. This is a responsible attitude to take for both public security and their own credibility. Top chiefs at the Shanghai Railway Bureau were dismissed yesterday, a correct step that the ministry took to ensure accountability for the accident.

China lags behind advanced countries in overall social management. This enhances the risks that China has to face as it develops a leading railway system. Railway departments should always keep this in mind. Besides owning reliable technologies and detailed management stipulations, they should also be able to lead the world in applying these elements. This is where public worries are focused, and where railway departments may find it difficult to improve.

All those responsible for the deadly crash should be exposed and punished. Nevertheless, the accident should not serve to fully negate China’s rail accomplishments. The rapid expansion of China’s high-speed railway network has brought huge benefits to the nation’s economic growth and social progress. Reflections upon the severe accident should lead to safer, not slower, railway transportation.

It is time for China to lead the world in certain fields. Such exploration is always accompanied by risks, as made evident throughout the history of transportation. China should take warnings from previous disasters. China’s high-speed railways should be a miracle not only in their speed and scale, but also in safety and all other fields.

The deadly crash on Saturday should become a bloody lesson for the entire railway industry in China. It should become a starting point for safer railway standards. The public should continue their attention and criticism and push authorities to respond quickly and fix problems. Nevertheless, people ought to make rational judgments.

The accident should promote the nation to develop a safer and more convenient high-speed railway network, rather than pull it back to the era of sluggish rail traffic.

The tone here seems to be that China is blazing a new trail, and some bumps are inevitable along the way. Given, however, that high speed rail has existed and been running totally safely for decades in France and Japan, among other places, this argument seems unlikely to sway many people.

Information Control

At the same time, the Ministry of Truth Directives Google Plus account has released more leaked propaganda directives relating to the crash, as sent to reporters and shared on Sina Weibo:

In addition to the directive we translated yesterday, here are two additional paragraphs:

To Central Media: Regarding the Wenzhou crash, the newest requirements: 1) Use the deaths and casualty numbers reported by authorities; they are correct 2) Do not report too frequently 3) Report more moving stories, such as people donating blood or taxi drivers not taking fares from victims, etc. 4) Do not investigate the cause of the accident, use the information reported by authorities 5) Do not do “re-thinking” or commentary.

Propaganda Notice: The name of the Wenzhou accident will be the “The 7.23 Wenzhou Line Railway Accident”. From now on, use the headline “Great love in the face of great tragedy” to report on this incident. Do not doubt, reveal, or make associations, and to not retweet things on your personal Weibo accounts. In [TV] programs you can provide the relevant information, but be careful of the music.

Public Response

The public, however, has not been in the mood to forgive anyone. A user-created poll on Weibo asking people their opinion of the way the accident has been handled has already accrued over 25,000 55,000 responses, and they are not good:

Are you satisfied with the way the Chinese government has handled the Wenzhou accident?

  • Very dissastisfied, [the government has] simply shown disrespect for human life. – 93%, 25,796 51,779 votes
  • Dissatisfied, the emergency response has been poor. – 4%, 1,077 2,003 votes
  • Decent, it’s been about average, they saved a few people – 1%, 351 592 votes
  • Satisfied, but I’m just satisfied with the way our countrymen saved themselves [i.e., satisfied with the people’s response but not the government’s] – 2%, 450 855 votes
  • Satisfied, the government is doing a good job. – 1%, 151 290 votes

Another poll on Weibo asked people whether they felt the disaster was “natural” [in this case, they just mean unavoidable] or man-made. 98% — nearly 18,000 voters so far — chose “man-made.”

Part of the reason people are so dissatisfied is videos like this (h/t to Shanghaiist). The government stated yesterday morning that all bodies and passengers had been recovered from the wreckage, but this video clearly shows a body falling out of a train car at around 0:09 as they’re moving it a body being removed from the wreckage. There may or may not also be something, perhaps a body, falling out of the car as it’s topped, but on review it’s not clear what that is. (WARNING: DISTURBING)


Additionally, there were reports yesterday that a surviving four-year-old was pulled out of the wreckage around 4:00 PM, well after the government had said that all survivors had been accounted for (state media reported on Sunday at 4 A.M. and then again at 7 A.M. that all survivors had been found). UPDATE: Here is a link to a story about this from the AP. The Xinhua report on this same story cites the girl’s age as 2 years 8 months, though. For the moment it’s unclear who is right or which system of measuring age they’re using ((The Chinese traditional way of counting one’s age is not as simple as the way age is counted in the West, and it’s possible the AP and Xinhua are working with different numbers because of that.))

The train crash remains the hottest topic on Weibo, with a general discussion of the crash ranking first and another topic dedicated to helping people find their loved ones in second.

Suspicions also remain that the death toll is higher than announced, and people are sharing images like this one, of a Japanese news site that reports 43 people were killed:

Some tech-saavy netizens are also using Google Documents (blocked in China) to try to put together a list of the victims that includes name, sex, age, other info, and links to the relevant media reports. You can see the document here; it is being continuously updated. As of now, they have information on 21 of the victims.

We’ll try to keep this post updated as new information emerges.